Whereas some artists excel at doing a signature sound, who perhaps neatly capture the testosterone fuelled urges of rock, or who might ooze indie cool or maybe understand perfectly the delicacy and heritage of folk music, Jimmy Lee Morris instead understands the idea of the song itself. I’m not suggesting that he is in any way a jack-of-all trades but instead of worrying about the generic trappings, the fad and fashion of a sonic task at hand, he instead is the master of serving the song; style and genre being at best secondary considerations.
As I said last time around when the excellent Gallery dropped through the virtual letterbox about this time last year, artists like Jimmy Lee Morris are a breath of fresh air. He seems part of an ever diminishing body of songwriters who still revel in the song rather than the delivery, the substance rather than the style, which ironically makes for an effortless delivery and an eloquent musical style of the sort that only comes about as a by-product of the job at hand. The job at hand, of course, being writing great songs.
The title track is an interesting place to start as it takes a different tack than most of the songs found around it, having its genesis way back in 1985 as a synth driven demo track that changed hands between Nelson King and himself and never quite came to fruition. But then …voila! A mere 33 years later Jimmy has found the time to write the rest of the words and include it in this collection, a jaunty synth pop tune that feels as much a modern track referencing the past as it does a past track sonically revelling in its formative sound.
But it doesn’t sit at odds particularly with the rest of the album as, by the artists own admission, the album is slightly 80’s infused being a blend of the modern studio capability and the sound of the earthy analogue that flavoured his own recordings with bands, such as A La Tienne, that he was playing in all those years ago. “I like to think this is what we may have sounded like today if we had stuck around long enough to make an album in 2018.”
Bigger Sky is a wonderful slice of Crowded House style infectious pop-rock, Something About You is a soulful and reflective confessional and Freestyle is a funky and groovesome dance number. Yes, its dance, anything that gets the feet moving and the hips swaying is dance music…genres are so last century.
It’s a cracker of an album, a collection of songs that tip their hat to the past, are perfect for the here and now and offer hope for a brighter future. What more could you ask for?
In a world of genres and sub-genres, labels and pigeonholes, Jimmy’s music reminds us that once you strip back the journalistic jargon, the post-this and that-core, the fashionable moniker and the industry marketing, if what is left is worth keeping, then you might as well just call it music. Okay, folk music if you like. Roots music at a push. But it is the wonderful simplicity of his songs that cut through all of the corporate crap and get us back to the essence of what music is. A tune, a story and an engaging delivery, if a song needs anything more than that you have to question what you are trying to do here.
What Jimmy is trying to do is entertain, something he does effortlessly with his mandolin driven jaunty grooves, understated balladry and infectious tunes. At his most effervescent, such as You and Me, he offers up engaging Paul Simon vibes but for the most part there is something quintessentially British in his ragged troubadour ways whether lamenting the demise of his Campervan on End of The Road or reflecting on the life of a musician on the title track.
Honesty is something in short supply in the world today, especially in the way the music industry is currently structured but Jimmy’s music reminds us of a simpler, less artificial way of doing things. Of music for music’s sake, of direct communication and an unfussy, unadorned way of writing songs. Some artists seem to think that the more tricks and gimmickry you pile on to a song, the more noticeable it will be. Thankfully we have Jimmy Lee Morris who in just a handful of songs proves exactly the opposite to be true.